Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oregon Coast 600k!

Most important part of the report: I finished! And it was never really in doubt... which was good and a little bit surprising, after a humbling and frustrating DNF in the Eden's Gate 400 two weeks ago.

Anyway, I'll begin with a little bit of mechanical talk (and you can skip ahead if you're not as much of a bike nerd as I) – the 600K was the first real tough test for my 1992 GT Tachyon. There's a bit of a iBob-esque cult following for the frame, which GT sold in the early 90s with their own propriety “700D” wheel size with thick knobby tires and drop bars. Not unexpectedly, the bike was a bit of a flop and 700D faded quickly; but, many old Tachyons saw some new life with the more recent 650B renaissance. The difference between the rim sizes is just 3mm, so it's no hassle at all to “convert” the frame and fork into a rando-ready machine.

Perhaps cooler than the oddball wheel sizing is the Tachyon fork, which uses adjustable, horizontal dropouts so you can alter your front end geometry to suite your style of riding. I had the front wheel all the way forward, and the result was some very fun, stable, and confident riding even with a largeish handlebar bag. The rest of the bike is nothing too special – a 3x8 Shimano drivetrain, mostly Sora with SantĂ© DT shifters (a remnant of my first-ever road bike!) that felt slightly overgeared with 52-42-30 rings and a 12-25 cassette. And, after many various experiments with short or shallow handlebars, I settled on a pair of cheap, round, and deep Profile drops... they looked a little bit silly paired with a tall Technomic stem, but I really liked the combo of an upright position on the tops/hooks, plus the option to get fairly low in the drops whenever I felt the need.

(end nerdy bicycle-related talk)

Anyway. Unlike for my failed 400K attempt when I got up at 2:30ish to ride to Wilsonville, I was able to set up a ride for myself and my bike to the Forest Grove start point. The extra sleep and lack of bonus mileage were both welcome for the ride. At the lodge, I saw many familiar faces, a few new ones – I recognized Lesli Larson and Michal Young right away as two of my riding partners from the Eden's Gate (mis)adventure.

Promptly at 6:00, we rolled off at a moderately brisk pace in a northwestern direction. I saw a few miles that looked familiar from the Birkie, but my favorite stretch was definitely the Banks-Vernonia trail – smooth, quiet, mostly dry, wide... just a perfect start to the ride. The Vernonia Shell station provided my first card signature, at just under 32 miles and slightly over two hours of riding.

The next fifty miles had just two cues given, which meant a nice opportunity for chit-chat, photography, and taking in the nice scenery. We also had our first true climb of the day; Lesli and Michal pulled a couple hundred meters ahead of me in this stretch, but I made it up the hill comfortably and used an aggressive descent to catch back up with them and head into Olney. We snacked, drank, rested, and removed some layers, then hit the road again in pursuit of the Pacific.

Fort Stevens' info control brought us within earshot of the crashing waves – and pushed our mileage over 100 for the day – but it would take another few miles south on Highway 101 to actually catch a view of the sea. Despite being a native Oregonian, this would be my first time riding a decent chunk of the 101... and the terrain was a little better than I expected. A few unpleasant stretches of pavement, but mostly a reasonable shoulder, and of course a few moments of beautiful scenery. We chose Cannon Beach as a spot for a hot meal, and some grocery store's chili and burritos provided some nice fuel to push us on with about ninety miles left in the day.

We rolled through Manzanita and Nehalem with ease, then were happy to see a turn-off that would bring fifteen miles of quiet, pastoral riding along the Nehalem River before getting dumped back on the 101 just outside of Tillamook. That town's Safeway – which I had avoided on the Three Capes 300 as a “timesink” – was a perfect spot for a somewhat slow and leisurely warm dinner. I had been eating a nice mixed diet throughout the day, with everything from pizza sliced and cookies to Gu gel and protein bars in my bar bag, but the Safeway deli chicken-bacon-avocado sandwich was still quite delicious and needed at that point in the day.

When we got equipped for night riding and departed, I became a bit of an expert/leader for our riding group – which, at that point, included Lesli and Michal, as well as Paul Whitney and a couple of SIR riders whose names I was never quite able to keep straight. Some of the others knew the Tillamook/Pacific City area from previous brevets, but I'd probably covered those same roads dozens of times by either car or bike, so I was able to navigate without looking at cues or mileage. This was especially nice for the one longish descent heading west on Sand Lake road; while the others kept a fairly cautious line, I was able to tuck myself into the drops and forget about braking and zip ahead by a couple hundred meters.

Of course, I was neither fast nor foolish enough to keep pushing ahead solo after the descent; I cruised slowly for a little bit, then we bunched back together for the last few miles into Pacific City. Arriving there at somewhere around 11:00, we were left with just two control options... the nice, touristy Pelican Pub on the beachfront, and a sports bar next to the Shell station on the way out of town. We chose the latter and were greeted by Bon Jovi's “Wanted Dead or Alive”, which soon faded out and was replaced with “Me and Bobby McGee”. A few riders grabbed coffee or bar food; I opted for just some stuff from my bag and a water bottle refill, but the little jolt of rock 'n' roll gave me a nice mental boost for the last 30 miles.

Unfortunately, those final miles included Slab Creek Road. Pitch black, bumpy, and seemingly straight up. I'm deliberately not looking up the route now to check the elevation data, since it's probably much lower than I'm assuming, but this stretch of road was probably my least favorite bit of Saturday (or, technically, Sunday since midnight came and went at some point of Slab Creek climbing). Nevertheless, our six or seven riders made it to the summit, some faster than others. I had the dubious honor of leading the descent again, but I don't think I even shifted out of my “granny” third ring as I instead decided to rest everything other than my brake lever muscles during a couple minutes of coasting.

After another little jaunt on the 101, I finally saw the Motel 6 at a little after 1:00am. The desk clerk generously offered Lesli and I a chance to store our bikes in the laundry room (which, I suppose, is a more necessary thing for her custom Vanilla than my piggish Chinese-made TIG'd machine!); and Susan Otcenas had a marvelous room full of various snacks. I grabbed my overnight bag, took a shower, ducked under the covers at around a quarter 'til two, and got in a solid two-and-a-half hours of snoozing.

A 4:15 alarm and a groggy morning dressing/eating routine got us out the door at 5:00. Expecting the worst in terms of weather, I started the day in wool tights over spandex knickers, a long-sleeve baselayer/wool short-sleeve/jersey/wool full-zip jersey/Shower's Pass jacket up top, and softshell gloves + thermal cap. By about 5:30, though, I was quite damp from rain but also definitely overheating – so I went back to bare hands and head, and zipped open my jersey and jacket.

Other than a 2-day solo Portland to Seattle ride via the St. Helens forest, this was my first real multi-day riding, and I was curious to see how my body would feel on Sunday. In the thirty or so miles between Lincoln City and Siletz, I got my answer: not great, but definitely workable. I fell off the back for a little ways, but still held a decent-by-my-own-low-standards pace. I took a quick sit-down at the Siletz café then caught up with Michal and Lesli, plus Seattleites Kole and Jenn at the Logsdon control.

The five of us stuck together, more or less, for the twenty-plus hilly miles between Logsdon and Blodgett. This stretch included my favorite stretch of the entire 600K, though I don't think any of my companions at that point in the ride would share in that opinion. Yep... the two hilly miles of gravel. The way up was nothing special (5mph is 5mph regardless of terrain), but I got quite a thrill on the way back down. Despite Susan's “USE CAUTION!” note in her pre-ride writeup, I did no such thing as I rolled down the twisty, holey, sometimes loose turf at 30mph. There's really nothing like a combination of 38mm low PSI tires and exhaustion/sleep deprivation-fueled bravado to turn a normally conservative rider like myself into a downhill demon...

Unfortunately, that hill certainly wouldn't be the last of the day. I didn't read up too much on elevation profiles, but I overheard a note that day 2's 150 miles would have as much total climbing as day 1's 223... and that seemed about right to me. Luckily, by the time I left Blodgett, we were “ahead” by enough time that I could have averaged about 8mph for the rest of the day and still made the 10pm final cutoff. However... at times on the monotonous stretch of Hwy 223 into Dallas, I felt like I really was going about 8mph, even on flat and level terrain with no wind. Michel and Lesli once again pulled away from me; I shared about a mile with Jenn and Kole, then was separated again when they had a small mechanical fender problem and pulled over. All in all, it was two-plus hours of solo, slow, and uneventful riding, on a somewhat busy road that seemed to contain a much higher rate of rude drivers than anywhere else on the route.

But, despite my growing grumpiness, I eventually made it into Dallas for some much-needed restroom/food/water/sitting. The knowledge that there was “only a populaire remaining”, as Lesli phrased it, really provided a mental boost over the remaining rolling hills. There's not really much to say about those last sixty miles: I finally hit a top speed of 40mph on one hard descent, ate a bunch of yogurt pretzels, started getting some mild hand pain, then broke my front fender (thankfully in a non-ride-ending way) stupidly trying to hop a curb at a Dayton mini-mart. Dayton to Forest Grove saw the best weather of the weekend, and gave me a chance to see the terrain which I had passed through in darkness at the end of the Three Capes ride.

And then it was all over, at some time just under 38 hours. I ate some delicious McMenamin's pizza (which, in my stomach, said “hello” to the five slices of Papa Murphy's pizza which I had packed on my bike, plus one “pizza stick” from Dallas). I packed my drop bag's contents into my overstuffed bike bags, because I had forgot that I was going to need to ride back home from Forest Grove. Susan generously provided a ride for myself and Asta and Theo to a Beaverton MAX stop; I got off at Lloyd Center, and somehow pushed myself home for two final miles.

Some final thoughts in no order...

• At one point, a couple of people were talking about their PBP plans and their experience in past 1000K/1200K rides. With nothing much of substance to contribute, for some reason I decided this would be a good time to bring up the fact that I had met the woman named Delilah who inspired the shitty pop song “Hey There Delilah”. Thankfully, there was no workable gap in the conversation in which I could make my illogical and rather useless side note.

• I always THINK that I like PB&J sandwiches more than I actually do, at least as ride food. For next time, I know that I probably won't eat more than one per every hundred miles. Maybe if I added some bacon to them...

• I see why the Showers Pass jackets are a rando standard. I had used an REI shell previous, then picked up my Elite 2.0 when the Bike Gallery had their season-ending half-off sale in April. Someone should tell them that “rain season” extends well into May!

• On another clothing note, the two Portland Cyclewear merino wool tops I also picked up recently performed great. Same for SmartWool ski socks and Ibex knickers. Not so much for any of the gloves I packed... I think I'm ready to give up on Pearl Izumi technical crap and just use thick wool camping stuff if I need some hand warmth.

• I've got a nice tan on my face, neck, and the back of my hands!

• Next up? I dunno. I need a 400K for my Super Randonneur, but it's not really feasible to make the Prineville ride in a week. Either Tuesday or Wednesday, though, I'll take an easy 40 mile spin to Canby and back to shake off my residual weariness.

1 comment:

  1. Great ride description ... and it was great riding with you. I am in awe of your ability to take photos while riding.